Listen to Tom Brink and it's easy to understand exactly the type of cattle the world's largest cattle feeding organization wants it's suppliers to provide.

Brink is senior vice president of cattle ownership and risk management for Five Rivers Ranch Cattle Feeding, LLC, which has a one-time feeding capacity of 811,000 head.

First and foremost, Brink told participants at last week's Beef Improvement Federation annual meeting in Mississippi they want healthy cattle, which continues to be a challenge.

"Cattle health is now a social problem, not a technological issue," Brink said. Though the industry has more knowledge and tools to combat cattle disease, he added, "Implementation is lacking. Many cattle still need stronger immunity before they leave home."

The problem isn't just interstate-weaned calves either. Brink shared March close-outs for 75,206 yearling-fed steers in the Five Rivers operation. Overall, death loss was 0.79%, which the industry obviously would consider to be excellent. Break it down, though, and Brink explains death loss of up to 0.5% represented a $10.89 loss/head on average. At a death loss of 0.5-1.5%, the average loss/head grows to $20.41. Over 1.5%, the red ink almost triples at $57.62 lost/head.